Patricia Hofer

St. Augustine and consciousness

In his writing The Literal Meaning of Genesis (Book 12), St. Augustine is clearly describing the “inward teacher” of our conscious mind. According to Augustine, when we read that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, this first kind of “vision” is that of the eyes viewing the letters on the page (Dupré and Wiseman 71). This is the lowest level of thought, the brain level, responding to printed words and physical events in the world around us.

The second kind of vision, according to Augustine, is “through the spirit” when we “think of our neighbor even when he is absent” (Dupré and Wiseman 71). With His “breath of life,” God endowed human beings with this capacity to visualize and conceive of things that aren’t present.

Augustine’s third kind of “vision” moves us even further from the brain-based natural world of events. Augustine sees this highest level of vision as “an intuition of the mind” where we are able to “see and understand love itself” and where “God speaks face to face” (Dupré and Wiseman 71, 74). In these rare and exalted moments, the mind of Christ inspires our consciousness to unconditional love.

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